Over at The Corner, Patrick Brennan echoes the spin of Obamacare defenders like Ezra Klein, who are busy claiming that Obamacare's advertised price tag has not doubled since it passed. Brennan writes (emphasis not in original):
This claim, that the CBO’s 2012 estimate suggests Obamacare will cost twice as much as originally projected when the bill was passed in 2010, has been widely trumpeted, by some rather doggedly, as another Obamacare failure, but unfortunately, it’s entirely dishonest accounting, as a range of liberal bloggers have pointed out.
Here’s why: The gross costs of Obamacare’s insurance coverage in the CBO’s 2010–2019 estimate were indeed $940 billion (table 2, page 2, here). The updated estimate covers the years 2012–2022, in which the gross costs will be $1.76 trillion, which is, yes, almost double the other number (table 2, here). But these numbers aren’t remotely comparable.
They cover similar amounts of time (10 years and 11 years), but different years, so the outlays should be different. Almost the entire difference in the two numbers is due to the fact that the new assessment includes 2020, 2021, and 2022, years of full implementation of coverage provisions, while excluding 2010 and 2011, during which basically no money was spent on the coverage provisions.
Now let's take a closer look at the numbers and how Obamacare became law before we decide who is being dishonest here.
First, lets get rid of the 11-year window the CBO uses in their most recent report, and make a new ten-year window so we can have a apples-to-apples ten-year comparison. Full Obamacare implementation doesn't start until 2014, so the CBO still hasn't procured an estimate of what a full 10-years of Obamacare spending looks like. But let's be generous to Obamacare's defenders and assume that the spending in 2023 is the same as 2022. That would make the true, 2014-2023, 10-year cost of full Obamacare implementation around $2.02 trillion.
Now let's see how Democrats sold the original 2010 CBO score of Obamacare. The Chicago Tribune reports (emphasis not in original):
The Congressional Budget Office today estimated the cost of the proposed healthcare overhaul at $940 billion over 10 years, a scoring that clears the way for a House vote as soon as Sunday.
Democrats greeted the number with joy, because it was less than the $1 trillion price tag that they were using as a ceiling, and it includes a projection for greater deficit relief over the next two decades. Republicans immediately pledged to fight the bill through its convoluted parliamentary route in the House and the Senate.
"We're absolutely giddy over the great news we have gotten from CBO," Rep. James Clyburn, (D-S.C.) the House majority whip, told reporters.
The CBO scoring sets the stage for the Democrats' push to collect the 216 votes needed to pass the bill, scheduled to be publicly unveiled later today.
A CBO score with a price tag below $1 trillion was absolutely essential to getting Obamacare passed in the House. No price tag under $1 trillion, no Obamacare. That is why the bill was designed to delay implementation: to purposefully hide the true cost. Now that time has caught up the Democrats shenanigans, the CBO is reporting that the real 10-year cost of full implementation is more than double what Democrats advertised in order to get the bill passed. This is not the CBO's fault. They dutifully and professionally scored the bill as the rules set by Congress dictate.
It is the Democrats, not conservatives as Klein and Brennan claim, that practiced "entirely dishonest accounting" here.
I understand why Ezra is shilling for Obama, Pelosi, and Clyburn. I am confused as to why National Review is letting Brennan do so at The Corner.